Gram Parsons

The Complete Reprise Sessions

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Truth be told, Reprise's 1990 single-disc two-fer of Gram Parsons' two solo albums -- 1973's G.P. and 1974's Grievous Angel -- was for most intents and purposes as close to The Complete Reprise Sessions as Rhino's triple-disc set of the same name. Parsons only recorded two full solo albums before his death in 1973, never living to see the release of the second one, and he didn't leave too much behind in the vaults, which were plundered in 1976 for Sleepless Nights and, in addition to an appealingly shambling, laconic, and lazy 1970 jam by the Flying Burrito Brothers, also contained three outtakes from the Grievous Angel sessions: "Brand New Heartache," "Sleepless Nights," and "The Angels Rejoiced Last Night," all included here. These were the only fully formed songs that didn't make the album, and the other outtakes were simply alternate takes of songs that did appear on the two albums. All of these alternate takes are gathered together on the third disc of The Complete Reprise Sessions. The first two discs are devoted to G.P. and Grievous Angel respectively -- two albums that were previously illustrated to fit quite well together on a single disc, but are now separated. These two discs do have bonus tracks, but they're not exactly enticing: a radio promo for G.P., plus promotional interviews that are neither revealing nor particularly engaging. Cut out the interviews and the two albums could have been put on one disc and then the second disc could have been devoted to outtakes, and the streamlining would have made this more attractive, particularly because the third disc on The Complete Reprise Sessions is not all that enticing. There are some good moments here, including a duet with Barry Tashian on "Kiss the Children," but the alternate takes aren't all that different; in fact, in every case they quite clearly prove that the best take did indeed make the finished album. Of course, any Parsons fanatic won't really care that these alternate takes aren't that interesting; he left behind so few recordings that his devoted fans will eagerly devour any newly discovered unreleased material, even if they know it's mediocre, which the unreleased material on this collection most assuredly is -- enjoyable, but mediocre all the same -- which the compilers most assuredly knew as they were assembling this collection. Given this, it would have been fairer to those devoted fans to present this as a double-disc set instead of a three-disc box -- after all, there are only two CDs' worth of music here -- but instead, Parsons' complete Reprise recordings are spread out over this inflated triple-disc set. And while the devoted will be happy with the remastering and the unreleased material, the simple fact of the matter is that all of his great music was collected on that 1990 two-fer, and that's the CD that anybody with an interest in Parsons, country-rock, country music, or American music of the 20th century should own. Not this good but bloated set.

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